Archivist note: This article is from an older recovered archive and might be obsolete or in need of updating.
Most recent revision is shown below, by Myrtil.
One morning not so very long ago, a goat walked into the City of New Babbage.
It seemed an ordinary goat, brown of coat and brown of eye, with a bit of white splashed upon the legs and face, and a short, black beard. The goat strolled in a leisurely fashion, occasionally stopping to look at this or that, or to munch on something tasty that it found along the road. As it approached the busy city center, various individuals upon seeing it moved to capture the goat, for a goat is always a great prize.
However, they found they were unable to capture it. In fact, oddly they could not get near enough to it to make the attempt. Not that the goat ran away from them, but because the closer they got to the goat, the more uncomfortable they felt about capturing it. Each noted to the other the strange sensation, and as the word spread the goat proceeded unmolested.
The young local boys, urchins mostly, followed the goat into the city, pointing it out to the citizens and marching along almost like a formal escort. Other people grew curious about this unique sight, and joined the children in the impromptu parade.
Suddenly, the goat stopped right in the middle of the road just short of the Town Hall stairs, and turned to face the now rather large crowd of people. There was a silent pause, and a hush fell over the crowd.
The goat sneezed, then just as the sun topped the tallest building, it surprisingly stood up on its hind hooves and began hopping around, and twisting its body wildly this way and that, gyrating crazily and waving its front hooves about. The goat appeared to be dancing.
In fact, it was.
The goat danced about for a few minutes, as the townspeople clapped a beat and cheered the strange animal. Then just as suddenly, it stopped dancing, dropped to all fours and walked straight back the way it came, glancing to the right and left as if in acknowledgment of its audience.
The urchins followed it to the edge of city, and a bit beyond, but ended the chase as the goat quickly increased its pace, and they found they could not keep up.
The townsfolk discussed the event for a few days following, mulling over drinks at the local pubs, but the goat was soon forgotten, and the seasons moved along.
The next year, on the very same day and at the very same hour, the goat returned, behaving exactly as it has the previous year. It strolled very matter-of-factly to the very same location as before, again followed by a crowd of townspeople, and repeated its dance.
The Mayor of the time, summoned by the chief constable, attended the scene and observed the goat’s unusual behavior. While watching, he devised a fine plan.
When the dance ended, and the goat began its walk out-of-town, the Mayor, a somewhat portly man with a bald pate and a huge highly waxed mustache stepped into the street, removed his topper and spoke to assembled citizenry.
“In the last year, since the first time the goat danced among us, our city has experienced enormous and unprecedented growth, and our industries and exports have all multiplied a hundred-fold. We have become quite a wealthy city. Therefore, I have reached the inescapable conclusion that this … fine goat, this fabulous goat, this very goat here today, is the embodiment of luck to our fair city, and deserving of our highest appreciation and respect!”
Very formally, the Mayor stepped to the center of the street, raising his arm and holding his doffed hat deferentially out to the goat as it walked away.
“All hail this Fabulous Goat, our honored guest!” he said with a shout.
The crowd hesitated, then broke into applause and cheers. “All hail the Fabulous Goat!” they cried. The goat paused for a moment, then turned slightly and surveyed the crowd with a backward glance. Later, some in the crowd would swear that it nodded agreeably before turning away and continuing on its course out of the city.
In the years that followed, the Day of the Coming of the Goat became an official city holiday, an almost carnival event. Businesses closed, fancy decoration and bunting were deployed, and carts lined the street offering food and drink to the celebrants, both local and those who came from far away to see the Goat. And every one of those years as before, the Goat would go to the very same spot, and dance as soon as the sun topped the buildings and lit the celebration. It would then repeat its walk out of city, now to the thunderous cheers of New Babbage and its visitors. The city flourished, attracting business and investment the leaders would not have thought possible, and its scientists created industrial advances that were the wonder of the Steamlands.
It was the seventh year of the coming of the Goat.
The City of New Babbage had expanded greatly in those six preceding years. The buildings grew taller, the coffers overflowed, the streets became smoother and the air pleasingly sootier due to the growth of high industry and increased coal mining.
The urchins had increased in numbers as well, causing more than a fair share of mischief, but that is a story for another time.
The crowds formed even before dawn, all lining the streets pushing and shoving and jockeying for the best position to see the Goat. The elevated seating before City Hall soon filled with the rich and powerful of the city, with the Mayor presiding in his private box over those who had paid embarrassing sums to be permitted the best view. The food and liquor carts as they had in the past lined the streets to the side, making a clear path. Drinking began early, and continued unabated. Fights broke out here and there, and more than a few celebrants were passed out on the ground even before the festivities began. When spotted by the urchins, they were immediately stripped bare of all valuables.
Suddenly there came a rolling cry among the crowd.
“The Goat! The Goat is coming!”
Indeed, the Goat was strolling down the avenue as it always did, pausing now and then to look at something that interested it, or to nibble at some rogue grass. As it reached the edge of the crowds, however, it did something that it had never done before.
It stood unmoving, seemingly reluctant to continue. It looked from side to side and snorted, and took a step back.
Someone shouted “All hail the Fabulous Goat!” and the cry rose up from the crowd, spreading from one end of the avenue to the other like a wave.
“All hail the Fabulous Goat!”
“All hail the Fabulous Goat!”
The Goat stood still for a moment, scratching the street with its front hoof, then proceeded down the street along its usual course. The cheers grew louder as the Goat entered the final leg of its entrance. It strolled as it had before, occasionally stopping to sniff something that attracted it, and nodding occasionally to the crowds of people.
As the Goat neared Town Hall, one of the urchins, an especially wayward boy often given to troublemaking, let fly a rock with his slingshot, trying to knock an empty soup can off the head of one of his equally wayward compatriots. He missed the target by a considerable margin, and the rock, moving at high velocity and seemingly unencumbered by air resistance struck the leftmost haunch of Old Sway, a temperamental horse that pulled a cart selling various meat pies.
Old Sway violently bolted as the rock stung him, and he dragged the full cart into the street, where it struck the Goat, knocking it harshly to the ground.
The crowd clutched and gasped, and screamed aloud. The Goat lay quietly as Old Sway’s handler retrieved the horse and backed the cart out of the street, then the Goat righted itself to the relieved sighs of all watching. It seemed none the worse for wear at a glance, but wore a lugubrious look upon its goat-face that was not pleasant to see.
The Goat made its way to the dancing spot. Again, as always, it began dancing as the sun broke through above the high buildings. It gyrated madly, flailing its limbs about and shaking its head in the still unknowable ritual.
Then, someone is the crowd noted “It’s facing the wrong way. It always faces the other way. Always.”
“Wot? Wot’s thet you sye?” challenged another.
“It’s facing the wrong way I tell ya.”
“Bollocks. Yer drunk,” came the reply.
The Goat ended its dance. All the people cheered and applauded, the Mayor doffed his hat to the Goat and the band struck up a perky march, as had become traditional at the finish of the ritual.
Then, as always, the Goat began its exit from New Babbage, strolling along the deep valley of the avenue created by the great tall buildings and casting a glance from side to side in acknowledgement of the crowd. When it reached the block where Old Sway had knocked it to the ground, it hesitated, then walked quickly to the nearby curb, to a dark object that lay in the gutter. It was then noticed by those nearby that one of the Goat’s horns was broken.
The goat sniffed at the object, then slowly let out a long sigh. It picked up the piece of broken horn in its teeth, and sadly continued its walk with its head down and its eyes focused on the cobblestones ahead. It looked at no one as it departed the city, in spite of the frenzied cheers and applause of the assembled mob.
As the cheering died down, the people conversed among themselves, and shrugged off the incident.
“It’s just a horn. The Goat will get over it!” and they continued their celebrations all through the day.
Later, in the early evening, most of the City of New Babbage burned to the ground in The Great Fire.
The Goat was never seen again.
As told by Jimmy Branagh for the Oiling Festival 2015.